February 28, 2000
volume 11, no. 41
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Capital's Archbishop Denounces Saudi Arabian Interests

    ABUJA, NIGERIA, FEB 25 (ZENIT).- The number of dead resulting from the conflict between Christians and Muslims over the enforcement of the Islamic Law ("sharia") in the city of Kaduna, in northern Nigeria, has risen to 400.

    Today, after a period of silence, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo spoke out, denouncing the application of the "sharia" as a violation of the Constitution.

    There was an eerie calm in Kaduna today. The army now controls the areas that were the scene of pitched battles with machetes, work instruments, and firearms. According to a nun who works in the city, this morning a band of Muslims tried to attack a group of Christians who survived the arson of a village near Kaduna, but the police intervened in time. At present, the streets of the city are being swept clean. There is filth and burnt material everywhere, to say nothing of bodies lying on the ground awaiting burial.

Destruction of Democracy

    "There are those who are blowing on the fire to destroy democracy," the Archbishop of Abuja said to the Vatican agency "Fides." "There are circles that do not like President Olusegun Obasanjo's policies and use the religious problem to make things difficult for him. There were armed civilians in Kaduna. But they don't have money to buy those arms. Who is arming them? Who is financing these revolts?"

    The Archbishop responded to the above questions without hesitation. "Those circles that have emerged against Obasanjo have contacts abroad and use the sharia issue to exacerbate spirits. It is not accidental that the ambassador of Saudi Arabia attended the ceremony introducing the sharia in Zamfara, yet no representative from the central government of Nigeria attended. All know that Saudi Arabia has promised economic aid to the states that establish the Islamic Law. However, before they never helped Nigeria."

    Observers wonder why the conflicts broke out in Kaduna, and not in other states where the "sharia" will be enforced. "Kaduna is of Christian majority. But there is a small, well-organized fanatic minority that is funded from outside. How can Christians accept the law of a minority imposed by force which is against the federal Constitution? Sadly, the fanatics argue that the Constitution was written by Christians and that they cannot accept it. They accuse Christians of separating religion and politics, whereas for them they are one and the same thing," the Archbishop explained.

    In the meantime, two other states, Niger and Sokoto, have turned the "sharia" into law, which will be enforced in May. The governor of Niger has echoed the words of his counterpart in Zamfara: "The sharia will not apply to citizens of other religions." This is in contrast with what is actually happening in this state, however, where the separation of men and women and the legal restrictions (such as the prohibition on the consumption of alcohol and others) affect all.

    Sokoto, however, is a strong center of Islam in Nigeria. Sultan Attahiru Bafarawa, head of the Muslim community, decided to speed up matters and have the "sharia" enforced on May 29. "I have decided to create the necessary structures for the introduction of the sharia, because it is a wish of the people and because Sokoto is the center for the propagation of Islam in Nigeria," the Sultan announced.

    According to observers, the acceleration is in keeping with a plan for Islamization that could affect at least 6 of the 36 states that make up this young country, the most populous of the African continent, which was opening to new relations with the West, after 15 years of military dictatorship. ZE00022505


February 28, 2000
volume 11, no. 41

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